Over the past few weeks, we have been answering the top 10 questions we get about disciplemaking. This week we cover questions 3 and 4:
Question 4: Why are groups three to five versus larger or one-on-one?
(This question’s content can be found, along with much more on this issue, in Robby Gallaty’s book Rediscovering Discipleship)
Many people have experienced discipleship in a one-on-one format. Because this form of discipleship has been common in the past, we often emulate that for our current discipleship strategy. There are even ministries that promote and equip leaders for one-on-one discipleship. Our goal is not to diminish this kind of discipleship. We would argue that any discipleship is better than no discipleship at all. But there are several (six we will mention here) reasons we would also argue that groups of three of five people, gender specific, are the most effective means to make disciples.
First, in a one-on-one discipleship strategy, there is a mindset of leader/student that is difficult to reproduce. Meaning, everything the leader does it what I must strive to do. The challenge with this is that not everyone is a strong leader. But every believer has been called to make disciples. What happens in a one-on-one discipleship relationship when the student does not feel they can “ascend” to the level of the teacher? The one being discipled may never feel they can be who the leader is in their efforts. But in a group of three to five the peer encouragement and pressure can help diffuse the nonsense that some people can’t make disciples. For example, in a one-on-one group, the student may not feel like they can memorize a passage. That’s something the leader does. But in a group of three to five, the other members of the group accomplishing the memorization provide a simple and effective encouragement to every other member. “If Joe can do this, so can I.” “If Joan can do this, I can do it too!”
Second, a one-on-one group can feel like a ping pong match.
“How was your day?”
“Good. How was the reading?”
“Loved it. How was yours?”
A group of three to five helps to create a conversation and lessens the pressure of the need to manufacture discussion.
Third, a one-on-one group tends to become a counseling session. Rather than sharpening one another, the mentee is often being counseled by the mentor. While this is helpful, it really isn’t discipleship. In a group of three to five, the conversations do help those who need it, but the focus is on more than just one person’s needs.
Fourth, a group of three to five has built-in accountability. Rather than a mentor constantly trying to hold a mentee accountable, the group creates cross accountability by virtue of the others just being in the group. Knowing that other mentees will be showing up and doing the readings etc., the members of the group (including the leader) feel the accountability to get it done. While one-on-one groups can have accountability, it’s much easier for one person to tell a leader, “Sorry, I just didn’t get to it this week.”
Fifth, multiplication is exponentially better than addition. Jesus emulated group discipleship because He fully understood the power of multiplication. Doing a little math can clarify just how profound the difference is between a one-on-one additional model is inferior to a three to five multiplication model. For example, in a group of three to five, multiplication within a few years has the potential to reach thousands, whereas one-on-one would only reach dozens. A good steward of their time can easily see how groups of three to five are more effective than one-on-one.
Sixth, Jesus discipled in groups. He discipled the 12 and he specifically spent time with Peter, James and John. We see Jesus very rarely, if at all, discipling in a one-on-one relationship. And even in those moments, it is out of the group not in place of it.
Question 3: What do you do in a D-group?
(Tim LaFleur answered a similar question several months ago about the first D-group meeting and second D-group meeting. You can read more of that post here.)
Knowing what to do in a discipleship group meeting is a very common question we get. The basic outline below does not cover all the facets of the group, but it does highlight the general model you can use each week for your discipleship groups.
- Begin with prayer. One person praying to start the group. You will pray in depth later. One Minute.
- Highs and lows of the week. This time is a simple relational share time to begin. Rather than turning the D-group into a social gathering where you kick back and hang with friends, you must be careful to limit this time to 10-15 minutes. Additionally, you want to avoid the focus on only challenges and negative elements of life. To do this ask each person to share briefly one high of their week and one low of their week. If your group meets for more than an hour this time can be extended. But make sure this is not the bulk of your meeting. The focus is not on hang time but on the Word in a discipleship group. Save the other for your biblical community (Sunday school/small group).
- Scripture memory. Spend a few minutes reciting your memory verse for the week. Remember this is not a legalistic time to judge those who aren’t good at memorization, but an encouraging time to help each other commit God’s Word to heart.
- HEAR Journal sharing. This time is the bulk of the meeting. You will ask each person to share at least one, but maybe two, HEAR journals with the group. You will discuss the journals as a group and encourage one another into accountability to the Response portion of their journal. 25-40 minutes. Make sure your group spends the most time on this part if the meeting even at the expense of every other part of the group time.
- Accountability questions. Five minutes. You might ask some key questions every week about your group’s marriage, work, thought life, etc. Or you may use the HEAR journal applications as your accountability portion of the group time. Whatever your group does for accountability, keep it within five to 10 minutes and at or near the end of the meeting time.
- Prayer. 10-15 minutes. Now you will allow each person to share a prayer request and spend time praying as a group. Everyone should pray. Try to ensure you spend at least as much time praying as you do requesting. Often our prayer times are spent with the discussion of the need versus calling out to God. Try to lead your group to pray more than share, or at least as long as you shared.
- Additional resource. Often, you will want to read a book together or study something in addition to the HEAR journals. For example, perhaps you want to help your group understand discipleship, and you all choose to read through the book Growing Up. Spend no more than 10 minutes discussing a chapter at a time. The best place for this is between the accountability time and prayer time. The key is to make sure that a book discussion doesn’t take over your group time. You don’t want to facilitate a book club; you want to study and apply the Word of God. Push the extra resource to the end of the meeting and limit the share time to 10 minutes if your group chooses to use one.
This article originally appeared here.